Audi Q3 review
The Audi Q3 is the baby off-roader of the Q family, and its rivals include the BMW X1 and VW Tiguan
The Audi Q3 is the smallest SUV that the company makes and it rivals the BMW X1, Range Rover Evoque and Volkswagen Tiguan. The Q3 is a smaller version of the Audi Q5, with the same SUV styling and luxurious interior - but in a more compact body. Four-wheel drive is available for the Audi Q3 and it comes with a range of excellent engines. For those who don't anticipate needing to go off-road during their ownership, the Q3 is available with front-wheel drive as well and these models get reduced running costs. There are two specification levels to choose from - SE or S line - and all models come with plenty of standard equipment, but optional accessories are pricey. There is also a powerful Audi RS Q3, which uses a 306bhp 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, to take it from 0-62mph in just 5.5 seconds. It's very expensive, but it's undoubtedly the fastest compact SUV you can buy.
Our choice: Q3 SE 2.0 TDI (177) quattro S tronic
The Audi Q3, Q5 and Q7 SUVs share a family resemblance, so apart from the big difference in size, there's not too much that's unique about the Q3. It has a smart design and it looks good for a compact SUV, but it's hardly eye-catching or revolutionary. The large grille, headlights and rounded roofline are all familiar Audi design aspects, but there are a few extras on the Q3 - like the rugged-looking plastic wheelarches and sills. On higher-spec models these bits are the same colour as the body of the car, and there are some other subtle changes. The Audi Q3's interior is excellent, with lots of high-quality materials, very upmarket feel and Audi’s MMI integrated entertainment system, which is actually very easy to use. Entry-level SE versions get 17-inch alloys, climate control, automatic lights and windscreen wipers, parking sensors, Bluetooth as well as a 6.5-inch display screen. Go for an S line model and you get 18-inch alloy wheels, sports seats, xenon lights and front fog lights. The RS Q3 gets extra badging and a more aggressive look to make sure everyone knows you're in the performance model.
The only petrol engine in the (non-RS) Q3 is a 208bhp 2.0-litre TFSI unit, which offers plenty of torque and a smooth drive but it's very costly to run. We'd recommend going for a diesel instead - the 138bhp 2.0-litre engine has plenty of power, but if it gets a bit noisy, there's always the 174bhp version which offers the best combination of power and fuel economy. The Ford Kuga beats the Audi Q3 for pure driving enjoyment, but it's still pretty agile and capable in the bends. The quattro four-wheel drive models get the best traction, especially in adverse weather conditions. Both gearboxes, a six-speed manual and a twin-clutch S tronic, are excellent, too. The ride is quite supple on the SE models, but the larger wheels on S line versions means it gets a bit worse. The Audi RS Q3 version produces a loud whoosh from the turbo when you put your foot down, along with a racy exhaust note, and with 306bhp distributed across all four wheels it can sprint from 0-62mph in just 5.2 seconds.
Audi is well known for building high-quality products and the Q3 doesn't feel like an exception to that rule. Audi finished in the top ten manufacturers of 2013 according to the Driver Power poll, though the Q3 itself didn't find a place in the top 150 cars list. The Q3 uses plenty of solid materials and feels like it is built to last, though. The Q3 also comes with a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty and three years' RAC breakdown cover, which should help keep bills to a minimum. With a five-star Euro NCAP crash rating, as well as 94 and 85 per cent respectively for adult and child occupant protection, the Audi Q3 should prove to be very safe as well. Six airbags and electronic stability control come as standard and there's lots of safety equipment on the options list. This includes everything from a Speed Limit Display, to Active Lane Assist, which helps to maintain the vehicle’s position in its lane. Further up the range, S line models feature Xenon headlamps as standard.
The Q3 is around 250mm shorter, 70mm narrower and 65mm lower than the Q5, so it's actually more of a rival in terms of practicality for the VW Golf and Ford Focus. The Q3 has a bit more passenger space than the BMW X1 and the boot is 40 litres larger, too, at 460 litres. Fold down the rear seats and the boot expands to 1,365 litres, but the seats don't lie flat so sliding things in and out is more of a pain than it should be. The large transmission tunnel means the middle seat passenger in the back doesn't have anywhere to put their feet, so it's not somewhere for long journeys. If you anticipate having to carry longer items then you can get the Q3 with a folding passenger seat. The Q3 is available with four-wheel drive, which helps in wet and snowy weather, but it's not a true off-roader.
Go for the 2.0 TDI diesel with 138bhp, if you're after the best running costs, as this front-wheel-drive with manual gearbox gets 54mpg and 137g/km emissions. Go for the all-weather four-wheel drive version and the emissions jump to 149g/km and fuel economy drops about 10 per cent. The more powerful diesel gets 48mpg and emits 156g/km of CO2, as it comes with an S tronic gearbox that features a new ‘coast’ function when you add Audi Drive Select as an option. This system disengages drive when you lift off the throttle in order to boost economy. With fuel economy of 39mpg and 174g/km emissions, the petrol model is the most expensive to run (discounting the RS Q3 performance model). The top-spec RS Q3 gets 32.1mpg and CO2 emissions of 206g/km, which is definitely poor but some might say it's not too bad given the performance on offer. The Q3 should hold on to its value quite well, as Audis tend to have good residuals, so depreciation shouldn't be too much of a worry.